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CHRISTINE SANCHEZ v. TRICORP AMUSEMENTS

November 29, 2010

CHRISTINE SANCHEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TRICORP AMUSEMENTS, INC., DEFENDANT.



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

"Summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine issue of material fact and if, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Pearson v. Component Tech. Corp., 247 F.3d 471, 482 n.1 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)); accord Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). For an issue to be genuine, there must be "a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party." Kaucher v. County of Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court must view the facts and all reasonable inferences drawn from those facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Curley v. Klem, 298 F.3d 271, 276-77 (3d Cir. 2002). For a fact to be material, it must have the ability to "affect the outcome of the suit under governing law." Kaucher, 455 F.3d at 423. Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a grant of summary judgment.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wolfson, United States District Judge

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Presently before the Court are motions for summary judgment by Plaintiff Christine Sanchez ("Plaintiff" or "Sanchez") and Defendant Tricorp Amusements, Inc. ( "Defendant" or "Tricorp"). The motions arise out of Plaintiff's allegations that she was discriminated against on the basis of national origin during her employment as an administrative assistant with Tricorp and that she suffered adverse employment action as a result of complaining about the alleged discrimination.*fn1

For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment in full and grants Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.*fn2

I. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff, who identifies herself as Hispanic, was hired on November 19, 2007 as a full-time administrative assistant with Tricorp. Plaintiff was terminated from her employment on June 26, 2008. Plaintiff alleges that during the seven months she was employed at Tricorp, she was treated differently than non-Hispanic employees by her direct supervisor, Marianne Moran ("Moran"), and was, eventually, terminated after complaining about the treatment.

The Handbook

Central to Plaintiff's argument are employment policies set forth in the "Human Resources Employee Handbook" ("Handbook") which Plaintiff received on November 19, 2007. Pl's Br., Ex., 3. The Handbook contains various company policies that govern employee conduct at work. Id. For example, the Handbook prohibits personal use of the internet during working hours and requires employees to limit personal phone calls at work. Id. at 20.

In addition, the Handbook contains, inter alia, Tricorp's policies regarding employment, attendance and disciplinary action. For example, the Handbook provides that employment with Tricorp is on an at-will basis, and that employment "may be terminated voluntarily or involuntarily at any time." Id. at 20. The Handbook also provides for a 90-day introductory period during which the company can assess a new employee's skills and compatibility with the job.*fn3 Id. In addition, the Handbook sets forth the following policy regarding time off from work: "When you need time off for personal reasons, talk to your manager. Depending on the circumstances, you may receive time off. Full time employees may also receive time off without pay or use PTO for the following reasons: Jury duty; Death in immediate family/funeral of relative." Id. (emphasis added). Further, the Handbook explains that full-time employees are able to accrue five paid personal days off per year beginning from the date of hire. Id. In other words, "[d]ays are accrued at a rate of 3.34 hrs per full month worked." Id. Moreover, the Handbook explains that "Paid time off must be requested in writing and have approval of management. Requests must be submitted on the "Vacation/Personal Time Request Form".

Please submit requests at least 60 days prior for vacation days and 2 weeks for personal days when possible." Id.

In addition, the Handbook contains the following policy relating to absenteeism:

If you know you will be absent or late, make every reasonable effort to call the office at least one (1) hour before your regular starting time. Because excessive absenteeism or tardiness can create a hardship . . . occurrences of absence in excess of five (5) in a 12-month period may be grounds for corrective action. For purposes of this Attendance Policy, paid time off or other approved leaves will not be counted as absences. Occurrences of absenteeism will be addressed as follows: Five (5) - verbal warning Six (6) - written warning Seven (7) if it occurs within 30 days of the 6th occurrence, written warning and there is a two (2) day suspension without pay.

Eight (8) if it occurs within 30 days of the 7th occurrence, written warning and there is a four (4) day suspension without pay.

In excess of eight (8) may be considered grounds for termination. Id.

In addition, the Handbook provides the following policy relating to tardiness:

Occurrences of tardiness will be addressed as follows: Three (3) verbal warning Four (4) written warning Five (5) if it occurs within 30 days of the 4th occurrence, there is a (2) two day suspension without pay.

Six (6) -- if it occurs within 30 days of the 5th occurrence, there is (4) day suspension without pay.

In excess of six (6) may be considered grounds for termination.Id.

The Handbook contains additional information regarding the company's approach to disciplinary action. For example, the Handbook expressly states that "[p]oor performance" is a ground for "discipline or termination," and that the following actions may also be considered grounds for disciplinary action: "[i]nsubordination or refusal to comply with directives; Failing to adequately perform job responsibilities; Excessive or unexcused absenteeism or tardiness . . . Any other action or conduct that is inconsistent with company policies, procedures, standards or expectations ." Id. at 18. Moreover, the Handbook states that the company may take any of the following disciplinary actions -- "oral warnings, written warnings, probation, suspension, demotion, discharge, removal or some other disciplinary action"-- to correct activities or behaviors deemed unacceptable. Id. at 18(emphasis added). Finally, the Handbook provides that "[t]he company reserves the right to determine the severity and extent of any disciplinary action based on the circumstances of each case." Id. at 18.

Plaintiff's Employment with Tricorp

During the seven months Plaintiff was employed by Tricorp, she was absent from or tardy to work on at least the following occasions:

* November 26, 2007: Plaintiff was three hours late to work. Pl's Fact Statement ¶ 9; Def's Fact Statement ¶ 14.

* November 27, 2007: Plaintiff was four and half hours late to work. Pl's Fact Statement ¶ 10; Def's Fact Statement ¶ 15.

* December 3, 2007: Plaintiff was three hours late for work. Pl's Fact Statement ¶ 11; Def's Fact Statement ¶ 16.

* December 5, 2007: Plaintiff was two hours late to work. Pl's Fact Statement ¶ 12; Def's Fact Statement ¶ 17.

* December 17, 2007: Plaintiff was three hours late for work. Pl's Fact Statement ΒΆ 3; Def's ...


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